Ukraine latest updates: Russia says will open evacuation routes

Ukraine news from May 4: Russia says will open evacuation routes for civilians from Mariupol steel plant for three days.

Steel plant
A view shows damaged facilities of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • Russia says its forces would cease fire at the Azovstal steel plant and open a humanitarian corridor for civilians for three days.
  • Mariupol’s mayor says heavy fighting is under way at the Azovstal steel plant.
  • The European Union unveils proposals for a complete ban on Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.
  • Moscow dismisses speculation President Vladimir Putin will formally declare “war” on Ukraine next week.
  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he will not accept any deal with Moscow on ending the war that leads to a “frozen conflict”.


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These were the updates on Wednesday, May 4:

Zelenskyy asks UN chief to help ‘save’ wounded from Mariupol plant

Zelenskyy has asked the head of the United Nations to help “save” the lives of the remaining wounded Ukrainians trapped underneath the giant Azovstal steel plant in battered Mariupol.

“The lives of the people who remain there are in danger. Everyone is important to us. We ask for your help in saving them,” Zelenskyy told Antonio Guterres by phone, after thanking him for a successful UN and Red Cross-led evacuation this week.

He called on the UN to “assist in the removal of all the wounded from Azovstal”.

Russia says to cease fire at Mariupol plant for civilian evacuation

Russia has said its forces would cease fire at the Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and open a humanitarian corridor for civilians for three days beginning Thursday.

“The Russian armed forces will from 8am to 6pm [Moscow time] on May 5, 6 and 7 open a humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant to evacuate civilians,” the defence ministry said.

Russian troops enter Azovstal plant, top Ukrainian lawmaker says

Russian forces have entered the territory of Mariupol’s Azovstal plant, Ukraine’s ruling parliamentary faction head David Arakhamia has said in an evening comment to RFE/RL.

“Attempts to storm the plant continue for the second day. Russian troops are already on the territory of Azovstal,” RFE/RL quoted Arakhamia as saying, adding that as of Wednesday evening contact remained between Ukraine’s government and the Ukrainian fighters in the plant.

Macron to talk Ukraine over dinner with Modi

French President Emmanuel Macron has welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris for talks and a “working dinner”, hoping to prise New Delhi away from Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Macron would “emphasise the consequences of the war for the international order well beyond the European Union, including in Asia,” his office said ahead of the talks.

France wants to “help the Indians diversify their supply” away from Russian arms and energy, officials added. The aim “is not to leave the Indians with no way out, but to offer solutions,” they said.

India has so far avoided condemning the Russian invasion or voting to censure Moscow at the United Nations.

macron modi
France’s President Emmanuel Macron welcomes India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

Brazil’s Lula says Zelenskyy shares blame for Ukraine war

Brazilian presidential frontrunner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said Zelenskyy and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin bear equal responsibility for the war in Ukraine, putting the left-wing icon at odds with Western powers.

“I see the president of Ukraine, speaking on television, being applauded, getting a standing ovation by all the [European] parliamentarians,” Lula, Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, told Time magazine.

“This guy [Zelenskyy] is as responsible as Putin for the war,” he added.

The remarks will likely raise eyebrows in the US and Europe, which are supplying military support to Ukraine and have hit Russia with punishing sanctions over an invasion widely seen in the West as an act of unprovoked Russian aggression.

Yellen says US in constant discussions about further Russia sanctions

The United States is in constant talks with its partners about further sanctions against Russia and could take “additional actions” to pressure Moscow to halt its aggression against Ukraine, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said.

Yellen told a Wall Street Journal conference she would not preview any specific actions, but said further measures were likely “if Russia continues this war against Ukraine”.

Netherlands weighing whether to boost weapons support for Ukraine

Prime Minister Mark Rutte says the Netherlands is currently assessing whether to supply more heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Kyiv has called for additional military supplies as it faces down Russia’s refocused offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

“The Netherlands will continue to support Ukraine’s fight to defend democracy and sovereignty, in the short and long term,” Rutte wrote on Twitter following talks by phone with Zelenskyy.

Biden says he will discuss additional Russia sanctions with G7

US President Joe Biden says he will speak with other leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies this week about potential additional sanctions against Russia.

“We’re always open to additional sanctions,” Biden told reporters. “I’ll be speaking with the members of the G7 this week about what we’re going to do or not do.”

Ukraine’s Kuleba urges EU states to back Russia oil ban

Ukraine’s foreign minister has called on EU countries to back a proposed embargo on imports of Russian oil, saying Moscow is using revenues from energy exports to finance its “war machine”.

“If there is any country in Europe who will continue to oppose the embargo on Russian oil, there will be good reason to say, this country is complicit in the crimes committed by Russia in the territory of Ukraine,” Dmytro Kuleba said in a video speech posted on Twitter.

Ukraine will not agree to any deal that leads to a ‘frozen conflict’: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said he will not accept any deal with Moscow on ending the war that would allow Russian troops to remain in currently occupied parts of Ukraine.

Addressing the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit in London via videolink, the Ukrainian leader said he “will not accept a frozen conflict”.

Zelenskyy warned against Ukraine being drawn into a “diplomatic quagmire”, citing earlier deals between Moscow and Kyiv concerning separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine.

“I came to the presidency when there was Minsk-1, Minsk-2. There were documents that were violated, so I can say these were not serious. However, there were arrangements on paper. It was a frozen conflict. I am against it. We will definitely not have such a document,” he said.

Ukraine says Russia is trying to increase tempo of eastern offensive

Ukraine’s defence ministry says Russia is attempting to increase the tempo of its offensive in the east of the country.

Defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk gave few details but told a news briefing that Moscow’s forces had conducted nearly 50 air raids on Tuesday alone.

He also said Russian artillery fire and air raids were continuing periodically on the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where the last Ukrainian defenders of the southeastern port city are holed up.

Mexico not planning sanctions on Russia: President

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says his administration will not impose sanctions on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“We want to remain neutral,” Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference. He also called for dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv.

A man is seen near a board showing currency exchange rates in Russia's Saint Petersburg
Many Western countries have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia which have rocked the country’s economy [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

Russian Orthodox Church scolds Pope Francis over ‘Putin’s altar boy’ remark

The Russian Orthodox Church has scolded Pope Francis for urging Patriarch Kirill not to become the Kremlin’s “altar boy”, cautioning the Vatican that such remarks would hurt dialogue between the churches.

The Russian Orthodox Church said it was regrettable that a month and a half after Francis and Kirill, who has given the Ukraine war his backing, had spoken directly, the pope had adopted such a tone.

“Pope Francis chose an incorrect tone to convey the content of this conversation,” the Moscow Patriarchy said, though it did not explicitly mention the “altar boy” comment made by the head of the Catholic Church on Tuesday.

Kirill, 75, is a close ally of Putin.

Hungary cannot support EU ban on Russian oil imports: Minister

Hungary cannot support the EU’s proposed embargo on crude oil imports from Russia as that would destroy its energy security, the country’s foreign minister says.

“The Brussels package of sanctions would ban oil shipments from Russia to Europe with a rather short notice,” Peter Szijjarto said in a Facebook video, adding that Hungary is unable to back the measures in their current form.

Read more here.

Somali family flees Ukraine, becoming refugees twice

Mohamud Abdi, 31, packed his family’s bags the day Russia invaded Ukraine, having escaped Somalia seven years earlier.

After a three-day journey which he described as tedious and full of fears, they arrived at the Ukraine-Polish border where they met refugees from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

“The reason I left my country in the first place was due to war. The same war devastated my second home in Europe, and I’m again seeking refuge in Kassel, Germany,” he told Al Jazeera.

Read more here.

UK bans services exports to Russia, sanctions Russian media outlets

The United Kingdom has banned all service sector exports to Russia and imposed new sanctions on 63 individuals and organisations, including several media outlets, in its latest wave of measures against Moscow.

“Doing business with Putin’s regime is morally bankrupt and helps fund a war machine that is causing untold suffering across Ukraine,” foreign secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

“Cutting Russia’s access to British services will put more pressure on the Kremlin and ultimately help ensure Putin fails in Ukraine.”

The UK has now sanctioned more than 1,600 individuals and entities since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

Bulgaria to seek exemption from any EU embargo on Russian oil

Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister has said his country will seek to take advantage of any potential exemptions to a proposed EU embargo on Russian oil if the measure comes into effect.

“Bulgaria, technologically, can do without Russian oil crude, but that would push up fuel prices significantly,” Assen Vassilev told financial newspaper Capital.

“So, if the European Commission considers exemptions, we would like to take advantage of such exemptions,” he added.

Mariupol mayor reports heavy fighting at Azovstal steel plant

The mayor of Mariupol says heavy fighting is under way at the city’s Azovstal steelworks, where Ukrainian troops have staged their final stand against Russia’s siege of the southeastern port city.

Vadym Boychenko said on national television that contact had been lost with the Ukrainian fighters still in the sprawling, Soviet-era plant and that more than 30 children were among the dozens of civilians awaiting evacuation from the site.

The Kremlin had denied that Russia is storming the steelworks.


Slovakia seeking three-year exemption to EU’s Russian oil embargo

Slovakia’s economy minister says his country wants a three-year transition period for it to phase in the EU’s proposed oil embargo on Russia.

Richard Sulik said Slovakia, which is highly reliant on Russian crude supplies, supported the bloc’s push but was still seeking an exemption to give it time to secure alternative supplies.

‘Orcs’ and ‘Rashists’: Ukraine’s new language of war

From Zelenskyy to regional representatives, Ukrainian officials have used frank terminology to discuss the war with the country’s public.

Read more here.

Kremlin dismisses speculation over May 9 war declaration

The Kremlin has dismissed speculation that Putin plans to declare war against Ukraine and initiate a national mobilisation on May 9, when Russia commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II.

Putin has so far characterised Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters there was “no chance” Russia’s leader would move to formally declare war against Ukraine next week, calling such suggestions “nonsense”.

Victory Day is one of Russia’s most important national events and Western politicians and some analysts have speculated that Putin could be preparing for a major announcement to coincide with the anniversary, with a range of possible scenarios ranging from an outright declaration of war to a declaration of victory.

Moldova ready for ‘pessimistic’ scenarios: President

Moldova sees no imminent threat of unrest spilling over from the war in Ukraine despite “provocations” by pro-Russian separatists in recent days, but has been making contingency plans for “pessimistic” scenarios, President Maia Sandu says.

Sandu’s remarks came after fears have grown in the past week that Moldova could be drawn into the war in Ukraine, with which it shares a border, after pro-Russian separatists in the country’s breakaway region of Transnistria reported a number of attacks and explosions there, which they blamed on Kyiv.

Sandu and her pro-Western government have blamed the incidents on “pro-war” separatist factions. She has also denounced comments by a Russian general that one of Moscow’s war aims was to seize Ukrainian territory to link up with the separatists in Transnistria.

Moscow warns it will target NATO weapons shipments

Russia’s defence minister has reiterated that Moscow’s forces will seek to destroy convoys of arms shipments to Ukraine from its Western allies, echoing earlier such threats from Moscow.

“The United States and its NATO allies are continuing to pump weapons into Ukraine,” Sergei Shoigu told a conference of defence ministry officials.

“We view any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance arriving on the territory of the country with weapons or materials destined to the Ukrainian army as a target to be destroyed,” he added.

Inforgraphic on the countries sending weapons to Ukraine

Russia says Black Sea submarine fired cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine

A Russian submarine in the Black Sea has fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine, Russia’s defence ministry says.

The ministry published video footage of the missiles being launched and said they had hit unspecified ground targets.

Russia first reported using submarine strikes as part of its self-declared “special military operation” in Ukraine late last month.

Exhausted Azovstal evacuees recount trauma of Mariupol siege

Pale and exhausted, Ukrainian civilians rescued from Mariupol stumbled out of buses in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday after a gruelling three-day journey.

Anna, one of those evacuated, said she had been among those trapped in Mariupol’s sprawling Azovstal steelworks amid Russia’s siege on the port city.

“It was very hard but we managed,” she said, speaking of her time underground. “We had to boil water with candles because there wasn’t hot water. My grandfather was running under the shelling to other buildings in the complex to get water.”

Read more here.

Russia sanctions Japanese PM Kishida, other officials

Russia’s foreign ministry has announced sanctions against 63 Japanese officials, journalists and professors for engaging in what it called “unacceptable rhetoric” against Moscow.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi are among those targeted by the measures, which include an indefinite ban on entering Russia.

EU sanctions package ‘notably’ excludes Russian gas: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, says the EU’s proposed sixth round of sanctions on Russia “notably makes no reference to Russian gas”.

“Why? Because in a sense it’s a bit like it is the elephant in the European living room – it is too big to be ignored but also so big that to do away with it straight away might have a catastrophic effect on economies across this continent,” Kane said.

“The financial aspect of the [proposed] sanctions is also fascinating, because until now the EU had been reticent to put sanctions on all the financial institutions in Russia.

“But today European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that Sberbank, which is one of the largest banks that has dealings with the EU, will find itself booted out of the SWIFT transaction system.

“That matters a great deal because without access to it, it will make it much harder for Sberbank and the other financial institutions being sanctioned to have dealings across the international community.”

INTERACTIVE - Russian gas imports into the EU - Europe's reliance on Russian gas

Ukraine warns Belarus could yet join Russian war effort

Kyiv has not ruled out the possibility that Moscow could utilise the armed forces of its ally Belarus in Ukraine at some point, a spokesman for the country’s State Border Service says.

Speaking after the Belarusian armed forces began large-scale drills, Andriy Demchenko said Ukraine was “ready” for any such mobilisation by its neighbour’s military.

EU weighing bolstering military support for Moldova

The EU Council’s president says the bloc is considering providing Moldova with additional military support to Moldova.

Charles Michel told reporters at a joint news conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu during a visit to Chisinau that European leaders were weighing how to help Moldova build up its forces.

He said this would come on top of help in the fields of logistics and cyberdefence that the EU had already agreed on.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of trying to destabilise Transnistria, where Moscow has had troops permanently stationed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia says its forces struck railway stations used to transport weapons

Russia’s defence ministry says it has disabled six railway stations in Ukraine that used to supply Ukrainian forces in the country’s east with Western-made weapons.

The ministry said it bombed the stations’ power supplies using high-precision air and sea-based weapons, but did not specify exactly which weapons were supplied to Ukrainian forces via those sites.

It added that its forces had hit a total of 40 Ukrainian military targets, including four depots storing ammunition and artillery weapons.

There was no immediate reaction to the claims from Kyiv, while Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the report.

EU unveils plan to ban oil imports in new Russia sanctions

The head of the European Commission has called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia in a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow.

Von der Leyen urged the EU’s member states to phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

She also proposed that Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks be disconnected from the SWIFT international banking payment system.

The proposals need to be unanimously approved to take effect and are likely to be the subject of fierce debate. Von der Leyen conceded that getting all EU countries – some of which are landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies – to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy”.

More buses of evacuees leave Mariupol

Another convoy of buses has left Mariupol in a new attempt by Ukraine, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city, the governor of Donetsk has said.

The buses were heading for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

He did not specify whether any more civilians had been evacuated from the steelworks in Mariupol where the city’s last defenders are holding out against Russian forces.

A family of Ukrainian evacuees from Mariupol is seen arriving in Zaporizhzhia
More than 100 evacuees from Mariupol arrived in Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Moscow politician: NATO was prepping Ukraine to attack Russia in January

The speaker of Russia’s parliament has said NATO was arming Ukraine to attack Russia in January and Putin’s decision to start a “special military operation” prevented “a huge tragedy”.

“NATO was preparing Ukraine for an attack on our country. How else to explain that all decisions on the supply of weapons to Ukraine were made by the US Parliament in January. Even before the start of the special military operation,” Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel.

He also said that Ukraine’s citizens were only “expendable material” for Washington and nationalism had become “the state ideology of Kyiv”, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

Road accident death toll climbs to 26

Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has confirmed that 26 people died in a highway accident in the Rivne region.

“In total, 26 people died in the accident: 24 passengers and two drivers (of a minibus and a bus); 12 people were injured; 11 were bus passengers and a fuel tanker driver; all passengers were aged 17 to 69. The youngest was supposed to turn 18 on May 12,” the ministry wrote on Telegram.

In his nighttime address last night, Zelenskyy said a bus, a car and a fuel truck had collided. The ministry said the bus was heading to Poland and carrying 34 passengers.

Firefighters spray water onto a vehicle after a fuel truck collided with a bus on the Kyiv-Chop highway in Sitne, Dubna district, Rivne region
Firefighters spray water onto a vehicle after a fuel truck collided with a bus on the Kyiv-Chop highway in Sitne, Rivne region in this image taken from a handout video released May 3 [State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS]

Shelling kills two people in Luhansk: Governor

Russian shelling has killed two people and injured another two in Luhansk, ” a woman from Lysychansk and a man from Popasna”, the region’s governor has said.

“Two women from Lysychansk were injured,” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram, adding that 45 houses and other objects were damaged.

He also said that the building of the Luhansk Medical Centre for Dangerous Infectious Diseases in Lysychansk, as well as one of the city’s schools, was engulfed in flames.

Russia ‘likely’ intends to take Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk: UK

Russia “highly likely intends” to proceed beyond the city of Izyum to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, the UK defence ministry says.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said Russia has deployed 22 battalion tactical groups near Izyum “in its attempt to advance along the northern axis of the Donbas”.

Capturing Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk “would consolidate Russian military control in north-eastern Donbas and provide a staging point for its efforts to cut-off Ukrainian forces in the region”, the ministry added.

Belarus army starts drills

The armed forces of Belarus began surprise drills on Wednesday to test their combat readiness, Russia’s TASS news agency cited the defence ministry of Ukraine’s neighbour as saying.

Against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ministry said the exercise posed no threat to its neighbours or the European community in general.

Taiwan gives $150,000 to Ukrainian refugee children in Slovakia

Taiwan has donated $150,000 in aid for Ukrainian refugee children in Slovakia.

The funds will be used to help set up a kindergarten for children who fled Ukraine to neighbouring Slovakia, which has now taken nearly 400,000 of the country’s refugees.

Taiwan’s representative to Slovakia, Lee Nan-yang, also asked non-governmental organisation Ukrainian-Slovak Initiative, which will be receiving the money, to transfer $60,000 to the Black Sea port of Odesa.

Australia sanctions 110 Russian politicians and ‘puppet’ officials

Australia has moved to further sanction more than 70 Russian politicians and more than 30 “puppet” Ukrainian government officials installed in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Foreign minister Marise Payne said the sanctions and travel bans on the 110 individuals are in response to the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty “through their assertion of governmental authority”.

Some of the sanctioned Russian parliamentarians voted in favour of the resolution calling for Putin to recognise the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while the majority subsequently voted in favour of ratifying treaties with the regions.

Australia has now sanctioned 812 individuals and 47 entities.

Russia says it attacked 39 military facilities in Ukraine

Russia’s air force attacked 39 military facilities in Ukraine on Tuesday, state news agency TASS reports, citing a representative from Russia’s defence ministry.

“Among them: two command posts and 36 areas of concentration of manpower and military equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Major General Igor Konashenkov told TASS.

Konashenkov also said four radar stations for detecting air targets, six ammunition and weapons depots, and a US-made radar station were destroyed in the areas of Lyman, Kramatorsk and Kamyshevakha.

Blinken and Truss in phone call on Ukraine

Antony Blinken has spoken in a phone call with his UK counterpart Liz Truss about the situation in Ukraine.

A statement from the US state department said the two discussed additional security and humanitarian assistance.

“They also discussed economic consequences for those who continue to provide financial or material support that aids the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine,” it added.

Ukrainian refugees wait in Mexico camp to enter US

About 500 Ukrainian refugees are camping out in Mexico City and waiting for the US government to allow them into the country, the Associated Press reports.

The evacuees were waiting on Tuesday in large tents on a field on the east side of Mexico’s sprawling capital. The camp has been open only a week and around 50 to 100 people are arriving every day.

Some refugees have already been to the US border in Tijuana where they were told they would no longer be admitted. Others arrived at airports in Mexico City or Cancun.

The US government announced in late March that it would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Hundreds entered Mexico daily as tourists and flew to Tijuana to wait to be admitted to the US on humanitarian parole.

A Ukrainian refugee walks with her child at a camp in Utopia Park in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, Monday, May 2, 2022
A Ukrainian refugee walks with her child at a camp in Utopia Park in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, on Monday, May 2, 2022 [Marco Ugarte/AP]

Ukraine war worsened the Americas’ pandemic problems: Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the war in Ukraine worsened problems in the Western Hemisphere caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as rising poverty.

Blinken told the annual Conference on the Americas luncheon on Tuesday that the effects of the war are being felt after the pandemic inflicted “massive economic harm throughout the region”.

“[M]any of these preexisting problems … have been made worse, raising the price of essential commodities throughout the Americas … cutting off key export markets for many industries in the Americas, and forcing households across the region to make very wrenching choices as the cost of living skyrockets,” Blinken said in his keynote address.

Evacuations continue from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday

Four evacuation routes have been organised for Wednesday, from Mariupol to the Zaporizhzhia region, the region’s governor, Oleksandr Starukh, has said.

The routes are: Mariupol 8am, Lunacharky Kiltse 1am, Tokmak 3pm and Vasylivka 4pm.

Russians readying for administrative occupation of Mariupol: Think-tank

The Russian military occupation in Mariupol is setting conditions for its administrative occupation, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has reported.

ISW cited a Ukrainian intelligence report that said private enterprises in Russia’s Rostov region had received orders to produce official seals and stamps for public institutions in Mariupol. These reportedly contain the inscription: “Russia, the Republic of Donbas, Mariupol, the military-civilian administration.”

“[The]report is consistent with Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko’s statement that children in the Mangush region near Mariupol are signing their school notebooks with ‘Rostov Oblast’,” the ISW said.

But it said these reports indicate confusion on behalf of Russian forces occupying Mariupol. It is unclear whether the city is to be absorbed into the existing administration of the so-called Donetsk people’s republic or to be directly attached to Russia as part of the Rostov oblast.

Ukraine likely pushed Russian forces away from Kharkiv: Think-tank

The Ukrainian army conducted a “significant counteroffensive” that likely pushed Russian forces roughly 40 kilometres east of Kharkiv, the ISW says.

This would “unhinge the Russian positions northeast of Kharkiv” and “set conditions for a broader operation to drive the Russians from most of their positions around the city,” the ISW said in its latest assessment of the Russian offensive campaign.

It added that the Russian army may then face a dilemma of “whether to reinforce their positions near Kharkiv to prevent such a broader Ukrainian operation or to risk losing most or all of their positions in artillery range of the city”.

Shelling kills one person in Kherson region

Shelling in the Kherson region has killed one person and injured four others, the rural community of Kochubeevsky reported on Facebook.

Russians ‘trying to vent their powerlessness’: Zelenskyy

The Russian military “has reacted extremely nervously” to Ukraine’s success in getting more than 156 civilian evacuees out of Mariupol by attacking cities across the country, Zelenskyy has said.

“Various Ukrainian cities have once again become targets for Russian missiles and Russian strikes. Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kyiv region, Dnipropetrovsk region, Odesa, Kharkiv region – such a scale of today’s shelling clearly does not indicate that Russia has any special military purpose,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

“Strike at Zakarpattia? What exactly can it give Russia? They are trying to vent their powerlessness. Because they can’t beat Ukraine,” he added.

156 Mariupol civilians arrive in Zaporizhzhia: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy says 156 civilian evacuees from Mariupol have arrived in Zaporizhzhia.

“Women and children. They have been in shelters for more than two months. Just imagine! For example, a child is six months old, two of which are underground, fleeing bombs and shelling. Finally, these people are completely safe,” he said in his nighttime address.

He added that he was grateful to those who helped arrange safe passage through the humanitarian corridor, as well as the negotiators of the three-day ceasefire which made it possible.

People with children after arriving from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol at a centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia.
People with children arrive from Mariupol at a centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, on May 3 [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP]

EU members seek exemptions from Russian oil embargo

EU officials have handed over a draft plan to member states on a new package of sanctions against Russia, but some members are don’t want an oil embargo.

Several EU officials and European diplomats in Brussels told the AFP news agency that there were divisions over the plan, which needs unanimous approval. Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries will meet on Wednesday to review the plan.

The commission’s proposal would phase in a ban on oil imports from Russia over six to eight months, with Hungary and Slovakia allowed to take a few months longer, EU officials told AFP.

Other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bulgaria and the Czech Republic could also seek sanctions opt-outs.

US to highlight war’s effect on food supplies

The US has said it will highlight the effects of the war in Ukraine and other conflicts on the diminishing availability of food and rising prices at two UN events later this month.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a news conference that Blinken will chair a ministerial meeting on food insecurity across the globe on May 18 to review current and future humanitarian needs.

Washington holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council this month. On May 19, Blinken will chair a meeting where its 15 members will consider how to make sure that food insecurity does not “drive new conflicts, instability, particularly in fragile states,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Biden urges Congress to ‘quickly’ approve Ukraine funding

Biden has called on the US Congress to “quickly” approve funding for Ukraine aid that the White House had requested.

Last week, the US president asked lawmakers for $33bn in additional spending to support Ukraine, a massive sum that he says will help Ukrainians continue to fight Russia’s invasion.

“I urge Congress to pass this funding quickly to help Ukraine defend against ongoing Russian aggression,” Biden wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

At least 17 killed in road accident in western Ukraine

A bus has collided with a fuel truck in western Ukraine, killing at least 17 people, authorities have said.

In his daily address to the nation late on Tuesday, Zelenskyy said a “terrible road accident” had taken place in the western Rivne region.

“A bus, a car and a fuel truck collided. As of now, there are already 17 dead, but there may be more victims,” Zelenskyy said, expressing condolences to those who lost loved ones in the accident.

Russian missiles hit power substations in Lviv: Mayor

Russian air raids have apparently targeted the western Ukraine city of Lviv, with its mayor Andriy Sadovyi saying the attacks injured two people.

Speaking in a video message late on Tuesday, he also said the bombing had damaged three power substations and two water pump stations, affecting utilities in the city.

Power substation burns after a missile strike in Lviv
Power substation burns after a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine May 3, 2022 [Andrii Gorb/REUTERS]

Baseball signed by Zelenskyy to be sold with portion for Ukraine relief

A baseball autographed by Zelenskyy in 2019 will be sold to help generate aid for Ukraine.

The official Rawlings Major League baseball is being sold by Randy Kaplan, a renowned collector of balls signed by world leaders, with a portion of the proceeds going to war relief efforts in Ukraine, auctioneer RR Auction of Boston said Tuesday.

The ball was expected to sell for at least $15,000 but the leading bid as of Tuesday had already exceeded that amount, an RR spokesperson said.

Baseball signed by Zelenskyy
The baseball is being sold by Randy Kaplan, a renowned collector of balls signed by world leaders [RR Auction via AP]

Biden says military aid to Ukraine ‘direct investment’ in democracy

Biden has called the US military aid to Ukraine a “direct investment” to protect democracy.

“Since Russia invaded Ukraine just over two months ago, we have sent more than $3bn in security assistance to Ukraine – alone us, not counting our allies,” Biden said.

“[I]f you don’t stand up to dictators, history has shown us they keep coming … their appetite for power continues to grow.”

Biden added that Ukrainian forces are “making fools of the Russian military in many instances” with the help of US military aid.

Russian attacks kill 21 in eastern Ukraine, governor says

The governor of Donetsk says Russian attacks have killed 21 civilians and wounded 27 in eastern Ukraine, the highest death toll since a Russian strike on a train station in the city of Kramatorsk killed 59 people about a month ago.

“At least 10 killed and 15 wounded, the consequences of the shelling of the Avdiivka coke plant by the Russian occupiers,” Kyrylenko said on Telegram.

He added five others were killed in shelling in the town of Lyman, four were killed in Vugledar, and two people were killed in Velyka Novosilka and Shandrygolove.

Read more here.

UN chief calls for ‘more humanitarian pauses’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for more humanitarian pauses after a safe passage operation allowed more than 100 civilians to leave a besieged steel plant in the war-torn port city of Mariupol.

“I hope the continued coordination with Kyiv and Moscow will lead to more humanitarian pauses that will allow civilians safe passage away from the fighting and aid to reach people where the needs are greatest,” Guterres said in a statement.

US helping make the war a ‘strategic failure’ for Russia: Biden

Military support to Ukraine by the US and its allies is helping make the invasion a “strategic failure” for Russia, Biden has said.

Speaking at a Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama that produces anti-tank Javelin missiles, which have been a crucial asset for Ukrainian forces, Biden credited the workers at the plant for helping Ukraine resist the Russian invasion.

“A big part of the reason they [Ukrainians] have been able to keep up fighting and to make this war a strategic failure for Russia is because the United States, together with our allies and partners, have had their back,” he said.

Biden at Javelin factory
US President Joe Biden tours a Lockheed Martin weapons factory in Alabama, May 3 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

‘This is our fight,’ says German opposition leader on Ukraine visit

Germany’s opposition leader has said during a visit to Ukraine that the country’s battle against Russian invaders was a fight on behalf of freedom everywhere, raising pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to make an appearance in the Ukrainian capital.

“These aren’t images you forget in a hurry,” Friedrich Merz, leader of the Christian Democrats, who lost power in last September’s election, said of the destruction. “It’s not enough to see it on television: you have to see it in person to understand the extent of the tragedy.”

Merz added: “The Chancellor [Scholz] is right that it’s not just Ukraine that’s being defended here, but democracy and freedom – the very way we live in Germany.”

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read the updates from Tuesday, May 3.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies